The UK will send a squadron of tanks to Ukraine to continue supporting the country in its war effort against Russia.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has approved a plan to support Ukraine with armored vehicles, The Sun reported.
It would be the first time in this war that Britain would supply Ukraine with military tanks and significantly increase Western support.
Deploying additional tanks could help Ukraine retake Russian-held territory and comes amid hopes that Volodymyr Zelenskyy will be able to launch a decisive counteroffensive in the spring.
The UK will send a squadron of Challenger 2 tanks (pictured) to Ukraine
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is understood to have approved the plan to use the armored vehicles to support Ukraine. Pictured: Rishi Sunak leaves Downing Street on 11 January 2023
A Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank during a land combat demonstration (file photo)
Rishi Sunak will brief Zelensky on the additional military aid later on Saturday.
Zelenskyy said in an address to the Lithuanian parliament on Friday that his country needs “urgent decisions from our entire anti-war coalition”, including on the supply of tanks.
The move of the Panzer Squadron could also be an important step in convincing Germany to send its much-coveted Leopard II tanks.
Europe has more than 2,000 Leopard 2s held by armies in 13 countries, but Berlin’s approval is required before a German-made kit can be re-exported to Ukraine.
A Downing Street source said Mr Sunak wanted “action to speak louder than words”, according to The Sun.
As part of the additional support, a total of 12 of the British Challenger 2 tanks will be made available to Ukraine. Four will initially be deployed to the war-torn country, before a further eight will be deployed at a later date.
A pride of the British military machine, Challenger 2 tanks have been in service for almost 25 years. It weighs 62.5 tons with a 120mm rifled gun and a 7.62mm chain gun.
Ukraine’s military has previously said it needs about 300 tanks from allied countries to continue its war effort to liberate the country.
A Challenger II main battle tank on maneuvers in the Oman desert (file photo)
A Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank during exercise Saif Sareea 3 in Oman (File Photo)
The military donations to Ukraine fuel hopes that Zelenskyy will be able to launch a decisive counter-offensive in early spring. Pictured: Ukrainian soldiers stand on their tanks in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, on Jan. 13, 2023
Former commander of the 1st Royal Tank Regiment, Colonel Hamish de Bretton Gordon, previously said the use of western tanks could “tipping” the war over Ukraine.
He said: “Strategically, this sends a very strong message [Russian President Vladimir] Putin that nothing is off the table
“Challenger 2 and Leopard II are modern tanks. They are much better protected, more reliable, faster.”
Earlier this week, Russia insisted that supplying Western tanks would only “deepen the suffering of the Ukrainian people” and would not change the course of the conflict. Currently, Russia relies on Cold War tanks.
France, Germany and the US have already signaled plans to send armored vehicles to help Ukraine – the AMX-10, the Marder and the Bradley respectively – although they are not classified as “real tanks”.
But at the top of Ukraine’s shopping list are the Leopard II main battle tanks, which Germany has not yet delivered.
On Friday, French Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu said the vehicles would be delivered to Ukraine “within two months”.
Other European nations using the Leopard II tanks, including Poland and Finland, have said they are willing to provide them, but this requires approval from Germany – which holds the export license.
A squadron of British Challenger 2 tanks was in Estonia this week as part of a NATO mission to smooth out any further Russian interference in Eastern Europe. The tanks previously served with distinction in the 1994 Bosnian conflict and the 2003 Iraq war.
Last year, Britain signed 14 Challenger 2 tanks for Poland as part of an agreement to support Ukraine, freeing up capacity for Poland to send its Soviet-era T-72 tanks to Ukraine.
Poland’s President Andrzej Duda said Wednesday during a visit to Lviv, a city in western Ukraine, that a company of Leopard tanks “will be handed over as part of coalition building.” He also noted that he wanted such a move to be part of a broader set of announcements, adding: “We want it to be an international coalition.”
Labor said it would support any decision to hand over Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine and said such a move would help calm Ukraine.
However, John Healey, the shadow defense secretary, said: “Ministers must go beyond ad hoc announcements and put in place a plan for military, economic and diplomatic support through 2023 and beyond.”
MailOnline has reached out to Downing Street for comment.
CHALLENGER 2 KEY STATISTICS
Length: 11.55 m (gun forward)
Height to tower roof: 2.49 m
Combat weight: 62,500 kg
Main armament: 120 mm L30 CHARM (CHallenger main ARMament) Gun
Ammo: 50 rounds – APFSDS, HESH, Soke (typical)
Secondary armament: C-axial 7.62mm chain gun, 7.62mm GPMG (turret-mounted)
Ammunition: 4000 7.62mm rounds
Engine: 1200 hp Perkins Condor CV12
Top speed: 59 km/h
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11634115/Rishi-Sunak-pledges-send-tank-squadron-Ukraine-major-spring-offensive.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Rishi Sunak promises to send a squadron of deadly Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine